Piece by siddhartha in today:
(why is it in my blog? because I adore cricket? Not really! Because I am fond of Kumble? Not at all!! It is here because siddhartha is my son!!!)
The clinical colossus

It is no surprise that Anil Kumble excelled in Machine Drawing. Every mechanical engineer will tell you that it is a subject that requires immaculate attention to detail – accurate measurements are crucial – and enormous amounts of patience, as most exercises require you to repeat similar procedures several times. It has varying effects on students – some develop an interest by virtue of their diligence while others create a mental block that seriously hampers their thought process. The ones who excel are those who view it as a simple method of illustrating a three-dimensional machine in different perspectives.

Kumble mastered it. More importantly, he swapped the drafter, an instrument critical in Machine Drawing, for the cricket ball and performed a similar function, all the way till wicket No. 434. He operated in millimeters and experimented in very narrow tolerance limits. Ironically, the reason he was different was because he didn't try different things.

For the generation who took to cricket in the early 1990s, Kumble was the most likely bowling hero. Kapil Dev was gone and Javagal Srinath hadn't arrived. We hardly saw an Indian fast bowler running in at full tilt and intimidating batsmen. But Kumble came close. He destroyed rather then beguiled. He cussed when he was taken for runs, and glared at batsmen who went after him. He pushed them back with a series of balls that were short of a good length before unleashing the yorker that uprooted their stumps. In many ways he was our Curtly Ambrose.

Thanks to Kumble, we hardly ever saw India lose a Test at home, let alone a series. If the strong Indian batting line-up was one axis of the Ajit Wadekar-Mohammad Azharuddin days, Kumble was the other. England were devoured, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe dismissed. Australia and South Africa, who battled for supremacy through the '90s, were made to flounder. And when Pakistan had a chance of a series win, Kumble gobbled them all up in one spell. India's invincibility at home wasn't because of the pitches they played on. It was because of a man who knew precisely how to bowl on them.

In many ways, he has been India's most valuable player for the last 15 years, yet never filled stadiums like Virender Sehwag, nor fired the teenage imagination like Irfan Pathan. With an extreme sense of professionalism he carried out a job of winning matches for India – the count of which we have long forgotten.

But if one moment stands out, it's that afternoon in Antigua two years back. With a broken jaw and his face all plastered he got Brian Lara out and gave India a sniff of victory. It wasn't a statement he was making. It was a job and he was doing it despite the acute pain. Wally Grout, the great Australian wicketkeeper, once remarked, "Whenever I saw Ken Barrington coming to the wicket I thought a Union Jack was trailing behind him." Both on the field and off it, Kumble evokes similar emotions.

Amid all this he remained unassuming and, just like he had done with his clutch-pencil at RV College of Engineering, let his work speak for itself. You may miss his name if you take a peek into the college yearbooks of the late '80s. If you take a closer look at the section celebrating sporting achievements, you will come across the name K Anil almost everywhere. It is symbolic of his career - inconspicuous, almost hidden off the field, while being a colossal presence on it.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Cricinfo.(

3 Responses
  1. YOW! Post his mail id for fan mail, s'il vous plait!! More later!

  2. S! Says:

    A very balanced piece. Interesting start, well researched, nuance & detail aptly matched, a sprinkling of drama here & there, compact ending.

    A good inning, one might say.


  3. S! Says:

    Liked too that statement "Because I am fond of Kumble? Not at all!!

    Curt, I mean. You have arrived!